Belt and Road fuels surge in foreign trade
Ningbo, in Zhejiang Province, saw a dazzling trade performance in the first half of this year thanks to its palce in China’s Belt and Road Initiative as well as the improving global demand for goods from this coastal city.
Foreign trade in Ningbo reached 362.06 billion yuan (US$52.6 billion) in the first six months, up 26.2 percent from a year earlier.
Exports increased 18.3 percent year on year to 238.52 billion yuan and imports jumped 44.9 percent to 123.54 billion yuan, according to the Ningbo Commission of Commerce.
With a consecutive monthly growth rate of more than 10 percent between January and June, Ningbo’s total foreign trade volume ranked ninth among Chinese cities and first in Zhejiang Province for the first half.
The city’s exports now account for 3.3 percent of China’s total and 25.7 percent of that in Zhejiang Province, the commission said.
“It is the best performance that Ningbo has achieved in recent years,” said commission deputy director Gang Yong, noting Ningbo’s export growth was the fastest among eastern coastal cities.
Gang said improving demand in the global market contributed to the strong performance of foreign trade in Ningbo, especially in markets related to the Belt and Road Initiative, which involves more than 65 countries.
The commission said foreign trade volume between Ningbo and countries related to the Belt and Road Initiative reached 98.3 billion yuan in the first half, up 28 percent from a year earlier. It accounted for 27.2 percent of the city’s total foreign trade volume. Exports to those related countries amounted to 63.59 billion, which made up a large proportion.
Part of Belt and Road Initiative, central and eastern European countries (known as CEEC) such as Poland and Hungary, used to be a low-key group in China’s trade.
To make these places a new growth driver, Ningbo has hosted the China-CEEC Investment and Trade Expo for three consecutive years since 2015. The efforts have paid off.
The trade volume between Ningbo and CEEC reached 9.47 billion yuan by the end of June this year, up 31.5 percent from a year earlier. Imports were up 89 percent and exports rose 26.3 percent.
The EU, US and Asian countries remained Ningbo’s major trading partners, worth 75.21, 64.58 and 30.68 billion yuan respectively, up 19.2 percent, 26.7 percent and 24.5 percent from a year earlier, according to Ningbo Customs.
“The foreign trade volume of our company reached US$156 million in the first half and exports increased by 3.26 percent year on year to US$57.59 million,” said Gu Weijun, the general manager of Ningbo Huamao International Trading Co Ltd.
“Such steady growth comes from our efforts to explore new markets. They used to be considered risky, but the diversification has helped us offset the slowdown in some traditional markets.”
Gu said the firm started to do business with Cuban companies about three years ago and the export volume to Cuba has increased from zero to account for 20 percent of its total exports in 2016. In the first half of this year, the proportion jumped to more than 30 percent.
“We predict that the export volume to Cuba will account for half of our total export volume by the end of this year,” said Gu, adding the company will set up two offices in Cuba and CEEC in October.
Among emerging markets, Ningbo’s exports to BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, apart from China — increased fast as the city’s export volumes to Russia and Brazil increased by 39.1 percent and 38.8 percent over the same period last year.
At the same time, Ningbo’s imports from Vietnam, the United Arab Emirates and Chile increased 72.3 percent, 66.5 percent and 126.2 percent from the same period of last year, according to the commission.
Private companies accounted for 62.4 percent of the city’s total foreign trade with a volume of 225.9 billion yuan, up 26.8 percent, Ningbo Customs data showed.
Private companies’ export volume increased by 20 percent year on year to 162.87 billion yuan and imports jumped 48.3 percent to 63.03 billion yuan.
“We now have about 15,000 companies doing foreign trade business in Ningbo, among which there are 108 big companies that contributed about 40 percent of the city’s total foreign trade volume,” said Gang.
Ningbo’s exports are dominated by machinery and electronics, valued at 132.75 billion yuan, up 21.7 percent from a year earlier and accounting for 55.7 percent of the total exports, Ningbo Customs said.
“We focus on the export of products with high added-value, such as machinery, electronics and high-tech products. The export growth rate of these products is higher than the average export growth rate, which indicates that the industrial structure is being optimized in the city,” said Gang.
The city mainly imports iron ore, coal, refined oil, and primary plastics.
A total 15.7 million tons of iron ore, 4.97 million tons of coal and 2.36 million tons of refined oil were imported in the first half of 2017. The import volume of primary plastics reached 1.76 million tons in the six months, 24.5 percent more than the same period of last year, according to Ningbo Customs.
Ningbo’s GDP reached 445.65 billion yuan in the first half of 2017, up 7.8 percent from a year earlier, the local government said.
The added value of the agriculture, industry and service sectors was 13.59 billion, 225.5 billion and 206.56 billion yuan, up 0.1 percent, 7.4 percent and 8.8 percent from a year earlier. Industrial enterprises consumed 24.23 billion kWh of electricity in the first half, a year-on-year increase of 12.5 percent.